5.05.2009

The Weeknight Joint, Revisited

This post originally appeared on Metrocurean in February 2006, but I thought it's time to revisit the topic after seeing a comment by Creative DC's Amanda on places you only go in the off-hours. My opinions are a little outdated on specific spots, but hopefully we can generate some fresh ideas in the comments.

I've been growing concerned with a new designation creeping into my going-out lexicon that to me indicates a.) I'm becoming antisocial, b.) I ain't getting any younger, c.) DC needs more cool hangouts to disperse the crowds, or d.) all of the above. I keep finding myself saying that a bar is great but "only on a weeknight."

Someone asked me about Bar Pilar the other day. I said, "I love it ... on a weeknight." On weekends, the narrow space can become a bottle neck and moving anywhere away from your seat (if you get one) can be a challenge. "What do you think of Local 16?" asked another friend. Same deal: grab a seat at the dark, moody bar on a weeknight and it's great. Come on the weekend, and it'll be you and every stiletto-clad 20-something waiting in line to get in and become a human pinball. Chi Cha? Same thing. And while we're at it, let's just throw the entirety of Adams Morgan into this category.

Don't get me wrong. I still enjoy a shoulder-bumping, martini-sloshing night out every now and then. But more often, when it comes to heading out for a drink on the weekends, I'm at a loss for someplace laid back. Even more challenging is thinking of a shall we say "trendy" place where you'll want to don your cool jeans and drink $15 martinis without a mob of people.

The few places that do jump to mind for low-key weekend drinks include my couch, The Saloon (fancy pants not required), a few restaurant/hotel bars like The Tabard Inn and Firefly and ... um ... *crickets chirping*

Am I an antisocial scrooge or onto something here? Is your favorite hangout too crowded on the weekend? Where do you go when fighting crowds isn't on your weekend agenda? Or would you rather keep it a secret so the rest of us don't ruin it?

19 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is so true. But it's even true on weeknights. Everyplace seems to be jam-packed to the rafters every day, all the time. The exception being Potenza at 12:30 pm on Sunday, when I don't really want to start drinking. I'm with you on the Tabard Inn. And of course there is always the inimitable, ultra-laid-back Trio's, great for drinks on the patio on a warm or cool evening.

District Dishes said...

Jack's on 17th street has a great patio for laid back drinks (or a fun little corner nook in the window by the bar). Its been a while since ive been there but ive had some great quiet drinks and snacks.

Otherwise i am in full agreement. All my favorite place in Logan/Dupont are too much to handle on a lazy weekend. Or, they are calm and nice but very expensive.

Anonymous said...

there is a very cool speakeasy in dupont called Riggs...awesome music and cool crowd. It's got a Beatrice Inn feel and is like nothing else in DC. Friend took me there and i promised not to disclose the location as the owners are trying to keep it discreet and have not opened it up to the public yet. probably because it would turn into every overcrowded place in DC.

ustreetgirl said...

Oh I hear you. I feel the same way, my recommendations would be restaurant bars, like 1905 and Creme, and then places like Solly's. And of course, if you go to the Gibson you can get a seat with no crowds.

Anonymous said...

Lemme put a plug in for Wisdom. It's a little off the beaten path down on the southeast edge of capitol hill, but it is great. The bartender won the DC Artini competition a couple of weeks ago and has a great cocktail list with some very interesting twists on the classics. I was there a couple of weeks ago on a Friday night and even though it is great it was very, very quiet. It's a great place that deserves more business than it's getting. Give it a shot for a great cocktail it a nice, quite spot.

Kate said...

The Gibson is a great place for high quality drinks and a low key atmosphere. Yes, it's a bit pricey and it usually requires some advance planning (there are only 40-50 seats in the place and they don't allow standing, so they recommend making reservations), but the wait staff is awesome and - most importantly - I can actually talk to the person across from me without yelling. Dress varies here: I've seen people in everything from jeans and a not-so-fancy top to dresses and heels. Anyway, definitely worth a visit.

JNo said...

I will jump on the bandwagon here too. I guess this is the price we pay for DC's renaissance over the last few years. On weekends my partner and I often go out for a drink early, St. Ex, Cork, etc. Sometimes Vinoteca is not that crowded, and the food is surprisingly good. Maybe some cool undergand places will open as a reaction to this? Has anyone ever been to the Black Fox on Connecticutt? Is it open?

Amanda said...

The speakeasy genre is fairly new to town since I wrote this three years ago. It's a good way to manage the issue since places like the Gibson strictly limit numbers. But then you get the haters saying it's too exclusive.

Like Anon's mention of Riggs, places like (the currently suspended) Hummingbird to Mars have to balance keeping it secret enough to avoid overcrowding but popular enough to make money.

JNo - I find myself nervously eying the clock on Fri and Sat and trying to get to places like Cork as soon as they open. And I forgot about Black Fox. I'm not sure it opened yet.

Washington Cube said...

Martin's Tavern, The Four Seasons, Mayflower Hotel, Timpano. Think "where do grown-ups" go drink? Wisdom is fine, but the drinks are pricey and they have odd "open" hours. They need to be open by 4 p.m.

Anonymous said...

I always find Bar 1331 in the JW Marriott a great place to meet up with friends over a cocktail. The crowds can at times grow to number but overall offers a great relaxing trendy atmosphere to meet up with friends.

Anonymous said...

It is tough to find a low key spot when you are all dressed up on weekends. Since I live near the Hill, I love the lounge upstairs at Sonoma. It's chic and low key. The cheese plates are amazing. Widsom is also great... wondeful owner, good drinks, cool playlist. For something a bit more of a scene, folks can check out the bar at CityZen, The Source, or the Blue Duck Tavern... all very sophisticated.

Anonymous said...

The drinks at Wisdom are a little high priced, but I feel like you get cocktails made with care and love, often from the owner of the joint. That personal attention makes it worth it for me. Now, you can definitely get great cocktails at PX, The Gibson, or PS7s, but in my opinion you end up paying in other ways, such as long waits (The Gibson), required planning and non-metro accessible, (PX), or attitude (PS7s). The Tabard Inn and U-Topia are also consistently lovely.

Amanda said...

Nice ideas!

I do think hotel bars are generally good for low-key cocktails. I'd add the gorgeous new St. Regis bar (love the look) and Le Bar at the Sofitel to the places already mentioned.

KMR said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gooniegoogoo said...

Granted you have to get reservations well in advance for weekends.....but nothing beats THE PX.....as it by nature can never be overcrowded.

Anonymous said...

Wisdom is bringing sexy back to DC. A cool dark lounge to hang out with some friends and conversate over some delicious and creative cocktails. Exactly what local heads are looking for to get away from the craziness that takes over their fave spots on the weekends! Metro accessible.

Anonymous said...

Wisdom is bringing sexy back to DC. A cool dark lounge to hang out with some friends and conversate over some delicious and creative cocktails. Exactly what local heads are looking for to get away from the craziness that takes over their fave spots on the weekends! Metro accessible.

Crash said...

Amanda,

This reminds me of the old Yogi Berra-ism about the legendary Toots Shores in New York, "Toots Shores is so crowded that nobody goes there anymore." O.o

I have so little to recommend because I try never to go "out" on Friday or Saturday nights. It's a combination of many factors, including the crowds and non-existent parking to just the time involved in getting a simple drink.

Perhaps more venues are required? It helps that places are opening up in neighborhoods that, five or ten years ago, would never have attracted suburbanites, but these neighborhoods are improving in terms of attractiveness both to businesses and their customers.

Anonymous said...

I'm with you. I have zero patience for any place that requires me to push through hordes of tighly packed people. No bar/club/lounge is worth all that aggravation. That's one of the reasons I love Saloon so much; if you can't find a seat, you can't stay. (I also love that there isn't a TV.)